Wreck Diving Part One

Trip Start Oct 01, 2011
Trip End May 05, 2012

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Flag of Philippines  , Palawan,
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today is pretty much the unofficial last day of our 7 month 'adventure'. I say this because I have the beauty of writing in retrospective and I know that there will not be another day like this again that feels so much like many of our finest days over the aforementioned 7 months.

It's motherfuckingdiveday. I'm aprehensive as ever. I was talking to Charlotte about this repeated aprehension when diving, I can blame it on repeated big jumps in different types and depths of diving in such a short timescale. That's probably just to make us feel better but still it's almost certainly a fact.

Had a sandwich for breakfast at the hotel and went across to the diveshop. For once what was advertised was what we got. For 40 each we got our own boat, 3 dives, 2 guides and a cooked lunch. Nice.

We got a lift to the boat in the back of bike drawn trailer. We briefly stopped so I could go get Charlotte's camera. The depths we are diving are all in excess of 18 metres. Charlotte's camera goes to a max of 10, she decided that she would run the risk of it breaking.

My stomach had been a little dodgy when we woke up and I hoped it would pass when we got on the boat. No such luck. I had no choice but to go for a shit on the boat. Toilets on these boats are terrible, they are 4 pieces of 5 foot high wood with a toilet bowl and a jug cut in half tied to a piece of string so you can fish out sea water to flush with. Notice I didn't mention toilet roll? 10min pass and now I have to think of how to deal with this whole mess. I had filled the jug up with a bit of water but it wouldn't be sufficient for various reasons. I had an idea, I 'flushed' the toilet by collecting more water then told the boat driver that I was hot and needed to 'cool off'. The boat stopped and I jumped in the sea, problem solved. Just wish we had brought the hand sanitizer.

Normally with the dive guides they speak fluent English, they reassure you about everything and are just generally cool people. Our main guide here was nice but he wasn't fluent and despite our insistance that we are far from confident he did little to reassure us without us prompting him first. Had it been a few dives earlier we would have been more concerned but in honesty our aprehension is just leftover from the origins of us learning.

The boat docked after about an hour, no one else around, class. The first wreck was the Tangat wreck, a Japanese supply boat sunk in 1944. This is the biggest and deepest wreck we are doing today. The wreck is on an angle pointing up so you can stand on its deck at around 24m. The plan was to go down the guide line along the deck and down to the bottom of the boat and through its cargo holds which still have barrels and bottles and things.

Before I continue I need to note that going into a wreck or 'wreck penetration' as its called requires a specific adventure diving qualification and in theory should also come with an advanced diver certification. We have neither of these and have only been to 30m once. I'm fairly certain that if you arrived in the Philippines and told them you have never done scuba before but one time you held your breath in a swimming pool for 1min they would strap you up and send you 40m down. There is little regulation is what I'm saying.

Back to the dive. This dive did not go well, at all. We are used to getting into water that is crystal clear, here there was no visibility, you could see just the line. The current was strong and is not something we had encountered before. Neither of us could equalise so the pressure on our ears was too great, Charlotte had to go up first and then I followed a little later. At the top I was seriously considering calling the first dive off but we tried again and thankfully our ears just sort of sorted. Around 24m the boat came into view and was clear enough. As the dive had gone to shit I was not really paying too much attention to what was going on around me. We had meant to follow a route through the ship but we had wasted time coming down so we didn't have too long. We went through a few cargo holds but the holes were big and not too challenging. Our air was running low and you are supposed to head to the surface at 50bar remaining. I hit 50 and he acknowledged it only for us to continue into another area of the ship, I was getting a little nervous by this point and eventually around 30 we headed up. As we hit the guideline neither me nor Charlotte had enough air to see us through the safety stop so we both had to take our regulators out and share air with our guides for the journey to the top.

At the top I was a bit gutted at how the dive had gone. The boat had been cool and it was cool to see but not as amazing as I had expected. What was amazing that I hadn't expected was the marine life, the fish here were as good if not better than anything we have seen, huge fish amazing coral that had grown on the boat. Hopefully the next dive would be a little better.

We had an hour or so gap as per makesureyoudontdie regulations or risidual nitrogen or whatever its called. We had lunch which was fish and rice and stuff, as usual it was enjoyable. The journey to the next stop was about 15min. We suited up and in we got, this wreck was called Olympia Maru and was another supply ship. This time equalising was no trouble, what was trouble was Charlotte's regulator leaking air. She had to go up so they could sort it, I went down with the mute guide and sat on the edge of the ship and waited. On the previous dive I'd cut my hand on the guide line so we wore gloves this time. We had more time to penetrate the wreck this time and so this time it was fucking class, we had to use a torch and navigate our way through the various areas of the ship, we stopped at a pair of huge boilers briefly before making our way round the rest of the ship. As the ship was on its side opposed to being flat it was sort of difficult to envisage exactly what it once looked like. When we came out of the ship we came up the side of it into a huge coral area that had grown on it, again it was class but the current was stupidly strong so it was an effort to pay attention. I signalled the end of the dive at 60bar as I didn't fancy gambling on sharing air again.

I dunno if the guide had been tired or what at the start of the day but by the last dive he had proper loosened up and was being cooler with us and having a laugh. We made the mistake of telling him that the camera breaking wasn't an issue before going down for the final dive - a smaller gunboat at no lower than 18m. To say to a man who probably earns about 4 a day that you don't care if your 100+ camera breaks or not is a little silly and confusing on his part. Anyway after a while he insisted on taking the camera and staying no lower than 14m, he ended up basically taking a video of our entire dive. The dive for me was fucking class, with it being flat you could see everything on the boat, periscope, driving..area, rudder, circle hole window things and other stuff. Plus with the depth being comfortable breathing was easy and there was never any danger of us coming close to hitting our limits. Charlotte didn't enjoy it as much because she lost us briefly when I went off to climb through a few holes with the mute guide. Also she couldn't equalise. I hadn't had any trouble until I followed the guide to the bottom of the ship and then it began to hurt again. We headed back to the surface after about 25min of genuine fun diving and exploring.

When I got to the surface I felt something in my throat so I spat it out, it was a big pile of thick red blood. Worried I cleared my throat of blood quickly and then asked the guide about it, he said it's to do with a sinus issue, I'm 99% certain my right ear has been blocked this entire time hence the constant issues with it at depth.

My hearing is fucked but its been like this before, it will clear. The day ended with a beautiful clear sail through the islets surrounding Coron, like I say this feels like the end. The day was quality, the diving was different to how I expected but amazing nonetheless.

The rest of the day is really worth noting considering the length of the above. We went to pay TJ some of his money and then stupidly over ate at seadive and went to bed early feeling full.
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